Happy 5th Birthday, Keira!

I’m a decent side and partial hugger because that the polite thing to do but I am probably the world’s worst real hugger (I am basing this on my own fear of hugs and my sister telling me my hugs were kinda lame).  Keira is probably the world’s BEST hugger.  I suppose I never really knew what a good full-on contact “I’m gonna show you how much I love you” hug ever felt like until she hugged me.  She pours her whole heart into her hugs.  You can feel her genuine love.  Since she first hugged me, I have been working on giving more vulnerable hugs.

Newborn Picture of Keira

Newborn Picture of Keira

Keira is in the stage of not being quite sure what her role is in the four sister set up we have going on over here.  Is she a young child like Elisha or is she an older child like Aurelia and Lucia?

This picture might appear as if nothing is going on.  Keira's birth was filmed for a TV show.   This is the only image I have that you can see the camera woman in.   I was in the water with Keira after she was born for her herbal bath.   Our bathroom was FULL of people.

This picture might seem a little confusing.
Keira’s birth was filmed for a TV show.
This is the only image I have that you can see the camera woman in.
I was in the water with Keira after she was born for her herbal bath.
Our bathroom was FULL of people.

Me and my baby Keira.

Me and my baby Keira.

Loving on their baby sister.

Loving on their baby sister.

Today she is 5 years old.  She was the baby (our third) that made us really reevaluate our family structure and the whole standard family set up we had been sold on.  So, when she was 8 months old we sold our house in one city and moved over four hours away to another city where we knew no one and had no support network.

Keira, age 1.  Naked after her birthday party.

Keira, age 1. Naked after her birthday party.

Keira, age 2.  Playing in the dance studio I danced in in college at Texas State.

Keira, age 2. Playing in the dance studio I danced in in college at Texas State.

Keira, age three.  Front porch at our house in Houston.

Keira, age three. Front porch at our house in Houston.

Keira is a child who smiles a lot, is extremely verbal, and has an amazing kinesthetic awareness about her.  She has incredible strength and inserts herself into groups of older children.  She seems to have abilities that supersede her age group.  She struggles to relate to children her own age and would rather play with the older children but still wants that cuddle time with me and she is an incredible snuggler.  She is also a child who will go off on her own intentionally and be fully aware of what she is doing.  She doesn’t need to stay glued down.  If she doesn’t like what’s gong on or doesn’t want to be there she will walk away.  She also is a child who would be totally fine spending a few months living with her Mimi Tina.

Keira, age 4.  Painting a tree in our front yard.

Keira, age 4. Painting a tree in our front yard.

It will be interesting to see what happens this next year in our unschooling world because now that she is 5 years old she is now age eligible for some classes and activities her older sisters participate in that so far she has been an onlooker.

Keira, age 5.

Keira, age 5.

Keira trusts people and leans toward seeing the good in people.  She also wants to be fair.  If she is drawing a picture she makes sure she draws two; one for me and one for Daddy.  She makes sure she gives us equal hugs and tells us the same number of times that she loves us.  Equality is important to her.  If she is getting a cup for herself she will also get ones for her sisters.

Keira, age 5.

Keira, age 5.

Her whole body reveals exactly how she is feeling.  When she smiles she smiles with her whole body.  When she’s sad she’s sad with her whole body.

Me and Keira (age 5) in Bastrop.

Me and Keira (age 5) in Bastrop.

I look forward to what self-discoveries she will make this year, what she will teach herself, and just how she will grow as a person.

Keira,

I love hugging you, holding your hand as we walk, cuddling with you, and even wiping your tears when you are sad and to watch you gain confidence back.  You are such an incredible human being to be around.  I love you, my favorite new 5 year old!

Love,
Mom

Happy 7th Birthday, Lucia!

I discovered a little more of myself with the birth and addition of each of our children to our family.  Lucia is no exception.  Lucia is a mirror for me.

Lucia, Age 7

Lucia, Age 7

Lucia at 3 months old staying in a cabin.

Lucia at 3 months old staying in a cabin.

Anytime my first reaction wants to be irritation I am quickly thrown back into my own childhood and remember really intense feelings I had and why.  I’m able relate to her because it is easy to put myself in her shoes because I was in her shoes.  I do fail sometimes at this because I am an adult now but this is generally how my neural pathways work when I interact with her.

Me VERY pregnant with Lucia.

Me VERY pregnant with Lucia.

Today Lucia turns 7.  Seven years ago I labored upstairs in our home in Bedford, Texas.  I gave birth to her in our bedroom while I had Sal in a sort of choke hold.  Hey, in my defense I needed something to grab and there wasn’t that rope hanging from the ceiling like I has imagined that would have been most excellent to have during pushing.

Sal's first duty as Daddy with each of our babies.  Putting on the first diaper.

Sal’s first duty as Daddy with each of our babies. Putting on the first diaper.

Even early on her personality traits were evident.  She is a petite in stature but mighty in every other way.  She is growing into a wonderful person.  She doesn’t like to reveal her knowledge of the world much.  Every now and then bits and pieces of what she knows spills out.  By the things she says it is evident that her knowledge is vast.

Wearing Lucia (about 1 yr old) and holding Aurelia's hand at Grapevine Lake

Wearing Lucia (about 1 yr old) and holding Aurelia’s hand at Grapevine Lake

Feb 12, 2010 Lucia almost 2 years old playing in the snow at our home in Bedford, Texas

Feb 12, 2010
Lucia almost 2 years old playing in the snow at our home in Bedford, Texas

January 2011.  Lucia 2 years and 9 months old at Space Center Houston.

January 2011. Lucia 2 years and 9 months old at Space Center Houston.

She only will communicate around people with whom she is comfortable.  When she is comfortable and has established you as a trusted and safe person she will reveal more.  This process cannot be pushed.  She will only retreat further if she feels she is being coerced in any way.

Lucia, Summer 2012.  We stopped by Texas State University on our way to San Antonio one trip.

Lucia, Summer 2012, age 4.  We stopped by Texas State University on our way to San Antonio one trip.

Lucia, age 5.  Family pictures in the Fall of 2013.

Lucia, age 5. Family pictures in the Fall of 2013.

Lucia Spring 2014.  Age 6.

Lucia Spring 2014. Age 6.

We call her our Bullshit Detector because she can sniff out a disingenuous person a mile away.  There are areas in our daily family interactions that I may not even realize I am being coercive or my intention may be selfish but she will immediately let me know by her verbal and non verbal (mostly non verbal) cues.

Lucia Spring 2015, Age 7.

Lucia Spring 2015, Age 7.

Lucia is a person who cannot be pushed around or pushed, period.  She MUST be allowed to develop on her own.  I do not want to break this trait in her nor should anyone try. I am excited to see what year 7 brings for her.  Watching her grow in mind, body, and spirit is a pleasure for me.  With her, I just sit back and watch her go.  She picks up on nuances about how the world works so not much ever needs to be said to her directly.  She really does love to snuggle with me and as independent as she is she still loves the physical and verbal reassurance from her family that she is fine just the way she is.

Lucia, age 7

Lucia, age 7

Happy 7th birthday, Lucia!

Why My Old Blog Posts are Crap

I started blogging in 2010 when we moved to Houston.

At first I had ALL of theses ideas and I was able to articulate most of them in daily posts.  It was pretty much lots of things I had in my brain that needed somewhere to be dumped so I blogged.  Over time I’ve learned some valuable lessons about blogging like it’s hard and you say things that can never be erased.

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There’s decent information in my older posts for sure.  But I won’t go back and read them. I also won’t go back and delete them.

I should definitely delete at least 20% of them.  Ok, maybe more like 60%.

Some of the posts were well-intentioned but came across as judgmental.  Gah. Embarrassing.  Some posts were mean.  Some were funny.  Some were sarcastic.  And some, if you read closely, revealed anxiety and depression and occasional hate.   In the past year or so I’v tried to have more humorous and thought provoking posts over informational or you’re-doing-it-wrong posts.

The same person who wrote those posts isn’t the same person I am today.  Let me pause a moment to shudder as I remember some of the real shit I posted.

Sidenote:  As I am writing this post right now my husband looked at my and said, “Are you blogging?”  I replied, “Yes.”  Cautiously he asked, “Aaarrre you allllright??  Are you doing this in anger??”  “Are you blogging about me?!?!”  “What did I do this time?!?!”  

There are often long pauses in my blog posts these days.  Two words:  Four kids.  Three words:  I unschool them.  Four words:  This shit is hard.

I also don’t have anyone breathing down my neck to write and I’m not getting paid for it so the motivation (and time) to do so has to come from me.  Also, I need to add something to my blog because I have so much content on this blog now that I have to actually pay for space.  I need to remedy that and either do that amazon affiliate thing or something to pay my annual fees to keep this site up.  For realz, biznitches.  It is now occurring to me that I am having to PAY you to read this.  WTF?!?!

Anyway, back to why I won’t read my old blogs.  I suppose I’m figuring out that writing is an art and it’s hard to go back and look at your earlier work or musings.  All of that crap was necessary for me to grow though.  I also like to think that I don’t just reveal just my good days.

I will dance in front of my kids because if you haven’t realized by now I have a dance background.  My daughters will try to mimic me and occasionally get frustrated with themselves that they cannot exactly match my footsteps or body movements.  I’ve heard them say to me, “You’re so good mom! Why can’t I do that?!?!”  They weren’t privy to my crappy dance days.  Well, I mean I still have them but I’m much more coordinated now that I was when I started.

A couple years ago I picked up a camera and started to learn the art of taking pictures.  Yup, that’s an art.  I’ll never be done learning that either.  My old pictures are crap too.

Art is a direct reflection of life.   I am a dancer, wife, mother, writer, and photographer.  All of these things are art for me.  There are days when I want to stop doing at least one if not all of them at once.  I look back at when I first started doing these things and I want to squirm, rip up, hide, or make excuses for what was produced back then.   That shit is embarrassing but necessary.

I feel obligated to remain vulnerable.  My children more than anything make me realize how important vulnerability is.  I am not perfect in any area of my life and never want to intentionally hide my flaws to appear as such.  I want to be open and honest about my flaws, especially to them.

We all have to start somewhere.  For me it was necessary to dump the crap first and slowly get to my heart.  Despite what my husband says I do have a heart (even though some days it’s cold and black but it’s there!).   I don’t necessarily think what I put on my blog posts now is perfection or extreme high quality or my high school AP English teacher wouldn’t still slap a C for grammar/structure on it but I’m not as embarrassed by it.

Who knows maybe another five years from now I will want to delete this whole blog and leave no trace I ever wrote online.  (Except I think that’s impossible with the NSA and the internet being the internet.)

Eh.  I like to say that through art we become better versions of ourselves.  Hopefully, for me , this is what is happening.

Why I Take Pictures of My Kids

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. 
If you are anxious you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

-Lao Tzu

One of the biggest hurdles I am constantly working on overcoming is anxiety.  I have a propensity for living in and worrying about the future.

Through my five pregnancies and four births this anxiety has ebbed and flowed, occasionally slipping backward into depression.

I struggle to live in the present.

The girls at the Children's Museum of Houston.

The girls at the Children’s Museum of Houston.

I am currently working on some personal goals behind the scene of the general public and every time I run into a hiccup it’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral.  So, I pick up my camera and take a picture (or 10) of my children.

A science experiment at home.

A science experiment at home.

Taking pictures of my kids, even when I’m angry, frustrated, stressed, tired, anxious, or depressed helps me look at my life through a different perspective.  It is so easy for me to get caught up in all that I do not have, all that lies ahead, goals I fear I won’t ever meet, all that I’ve struggled with, and all my faults that I am am easily blinded to the moment that is in front of me.

Lucia eating a strawberry.

Lucia eating a strawberry.

Keira playing hide and seek in the Centennial Gardens in Houston.

Keira playing hide and seek in the Centennial Gardens in Houston.

For me, capturing the moment helps me see that things aren’t as bad as think they are in my head or maybe they are but seeing it through the lens of a camera  puts a different spin on the situation.

Elisha working on legos

Elisha working on legos

Aurelia dancing by herself in the Centennial Gardens in Houston.

Aurelia dancing by herself in the Centennial Gardens in Houston.

When I post images on Facebook, it isn’t for you.  It is for me.  It’s therapy.  It’s a reminder that while not every day is picture perfect, every thing in that picture is perfect just the way it is.

There’s a book, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents, that I’ve given as gifts to a few of my friends and family recently who are expecting.  It is a short book with great wisdom and short stories that have brought me comfort.

Getting a Nine Year Old Pierced at a Tattoo Parlor

This post is nine years in the making.  This post also contains the video and pictures of Aurelia getting pierced.

A long long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth…err wait.  No, not that long ago.  More like back when Aurelia was a baby.  So like 9 years ago not a hundred million years ago.  Anyway, so back when I first became a mother I started to tap into that mothering instinct thing that I based many parenting decisions on which so also happened to be back by research and shit.  One area that I had to make a decision about was ear piercing.

I’m not gonna lie, my first reaction was something along the lines of me not having any desire to clean and care for another area of her body that just really didn’t need to be cared for.  I was struggling enough with becoming a new mommy, moving from the upper portion of the US back down to Texas, trying to find a place to live, looking for job, and figuring it all out that I couldn’t imagine adding another thing to my plate.

I did more research over time to figure out why my instinct as a mother said abso-effing-no to ear piercing her as an infant.  After all, many parents do this, care for it just fine, don’t bat an eye, and everyone seems unfazed by it maybe because it is just such a common ritual practiced here.  Getting a baby girl’s ears pierced seemed as common and unmindful practice as infant male circumcision.  Why was I questioning this?

This was also the beginning of my research as to why I was starting to question every common and mainstream parenting choice.  I was curious why I was rebelling against the norm.  Something in me said, “What a minute.  Let’s think about this decision before we do it.  Why does our culture do this?  Is it necessary?  Is it helpful?”  I questioned everything from formula, diapers, food, pediatricians, household chemicals, baby sleep, pacifiers, etc.  (Note:  This was back in 2005 when I was so in the closet about my choices because they were NOT trendy like they are now and I got A LOT of criticism from family and friends so many things I just opted not to reveal about how we parented to avoid the ridicule and judgment about my ability as a mother.)

Back to ear piercing and tattoo parlors.  I did research on this.  Many many parents walk into a FREE EAR PIERCING WITH A THE PURCHASE OF EARRINGS type places that are full of glittery girly goo where the employee who is selling you bedazzled purses is also using a gun that’s been used and impossible to properly sanitize to pierce the revolving door of people who come to get a quick piercing.  It’s so common.  Everyone does it.  Plus there’s lots of glitter.  Who doesn’t trust glitter and sequins?!?!  These franchises have been around for awhile.  It must be safe.  I completely understand why it is trusted.  It’s easy to trust a brick and mortar brand name that’s been around for a while and you’ve not heard of them having lawsuits brought against them in the media.  And most of the time it turns out ok.  I mean you hear about the cases when it gets infected, the hole isn’t complete, a hole is off center, it has to be redone later on, etc.  But for the most part in the end it’s ok.

Of course me being me, I researched the alternative.  Having a professional piercer or pediatrician pierce a kid’s ears.  Years ago pediatricians used to pierce ears.  There seems to be a resurgence of this practice coming back into pediatrician’s offices.  There is the cost factor, wait time for an appt, and the unnecessary exposure to an unwell population for a piercing.  Also, if the nurses are the ones handing needles and poking holes in children when they give shots, why is a pediatrician the one putting holes in the ears?  Would a nurse be more qualified for this?  For me it seemed that when the time came, and only if my children wanted it, you see, for me it absolutely HAD to be their choice, we would find a professional piercer to do it.  (Each state varies on the certification requirements.)

When Aurelia was seven she started talking about maybe wanting to get her ears pierced.  We discussed it and I let her watch piercing videos of kids getting their ears pierced with a gun and kids getting pierced with a needle with a professional piercer.  Around age eight she gathered the courage to go.  We were out and about one day and drove by a tattoo and piercing place.  We walked in to ask questions about minors and this particular place did not pierce minors.  At the time I didn’t realize that there were places who wouldn’t pierce minors even with parental consent.  This alone got me thinking more about how serious professional piercers take piercing version the glitter and sequin franchise stores who will gladly use the gun on anyone.  Off to do more research.

Life got busy and I knew that the square footage available in tattoo and piercing shops are limited, both Sal and I wanted to be there when she got it done, and we have four kids.  This dynamic doesn’t make it easy to just walk into a place with sharp needles with a handful of  kids who have no idea how still and patient they will need to be during a procedure like this.  It would just be too stressful on everyone involved.  There is no need to make the people getting and giving piercing and tattoos nervous with needles in their hands with kids running in the shop.  So we opted for a better time when it didn’t feel like having to herd cats into a bag while we did this.

Aurelia turned nine last month and this is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to do this since then due to the current status of our six and four year old staying at grandma’s house in San Antonio.  We only have two children right now to manage in a tattoo shop.  Way easier.

Walking into the tattoo and piercing parlor

Walking into the tattoo and piercing parlor

I was now charged with finding a place that would pierce a minor.  I did a quick google search and found reviews from places that said they pierced minors.  I called a few and some flat out said no despite reviewers saying they did, some said the minor needed to be at least 13 for an earlobe piercing, and a very select few said they’d pierce a minor’s earlobes and only with a birth certification and parent IDs verifying she was our child.  We brought the necessary requirements.  Aurelia was super excited about this.  All she could seem to say was, “FINALLY!!”

Getting cleaned and marked for where the piercings will go.

Getting cleaned and marked for where the piercings will go.

Working with sterile equipment.

Working with sterile equipment.

Pierced.

Pierced.

Cleaned again.

Cleaned again.

Admiring her ears.

Admiring her ears.

A daddy moment.

A daddy moment.

Photo op with the piercer.

Photo op with the piercer.

And a lollipop!

And a lollipop!

We are on week two of caring for the piercing and she seems to be managing the cleaning three times a day just fine by herself.  The piercings look good and uninfected.  There is a salt water cleaning regimen that is done and I added some essential oils and a carrier oil to aid in the turning and further cleaning of the area.  Aurelia said that the oils help her turn the posts without pain versus turning them without the oils.

All is well.  She is very happy with her choice to get her ears pierced and looks forward to putting other earrings in her ears once the surgical steel ones can be removed after the completion of the healing process.  For her, age nine seemed to be a good age to do this.  She is at the stage of needing me less for hygiene and starting to care for herself more.   Her path may have been a little different than the norm, but nine years later, this baby girl has her ears pierced!

Family Pictures 2014

I totally intended on posting this around Christmastime but….  Oh hell, it just wasn’t a priority with all the other things going on that involve being an unschooling family of six around the holidays…and maybe because the nightmare I have to relive every time I look at these images.  2014 Family Picture session was something the Lopez children really didn’t want to be apart of and it’s evident in the photos.

We had our family pictures taken in an urban area.  I thought the area was pretty cool.  The photographer was great and the setting had personality.  For some reason 100% of Lopez children couldn’t be persuaded to fully participate in the session and just look happy for the split second that the shutter was pressed.   Eh, I can’t blame them though.  Children don’t understand the expectations Mom and Dad had in their head and the money dropped on family portraits.

If you’ve ever participated in a family photo session as a parent you know how NOT easy it is to prepare, plan, get ready, drive to location, and take pictures without losing your shit or crying or both.  There’s a significant amount of stress involved in a family photo session.  And if I’m the only one who feels this way I must be doing something wrong.  Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the deposit I already paid.

As you look/laugh/criticize/judge our 2014 family pictures remember that the images we received were the best ones out of the bunch.  We’ve used this photographer multiple times and she is wonderful.  I recommend her to friends and family and have always had beautiful images and these images are still beautiful in their own right but this was probably by far our worst family photo session ever or at least the one I walked away knowing the photographer wasn’t going to have many *good* images to choose from.  A photographer isn’t a magician and kids are kids.

By the end of the session I wanted to cry and scream.  Cry because of the expectation I had and knowing I shouldn’t force kids to take pictures but also because I wanted these images so badly.  I’m always taking pictures of them and rarely get to be in one, and of course there is always the money spent.

Can't really tell that behind those smiles that Mom and Dad were weeping behind those smiles because the session wasn't at all panning out like we had hoped.

Can’t really tell that behind those smiles that Mom and Dad were weeping because the session wasn’t at all panning out like we had hoped.  This image was taken at the end.  Our kids were running around the photographer and her expensive equipment and playing really close to the street. 

Rarely do I get a picture of me with my kids.  I suppose  this is reality though.  Eh.

Rarely do I get a picture of me with my kids. I suppose this is reality though. Eh.

In this split second, Keira was willing to stand by me, not dart out into the street, pick a fight with another sister, and take a picture.

In this split second, Keira was willing to stand by me, not dart out into the street, pick a fight with another sister, and take a picture.

The best family shot and I have a double chin.   Gah!  Again, we were wrestling the kids just to stay in the frame so you take what you can get.

The best family shot and I have a double chin.  Pretty sure weight loss reps will be advertising to me now.  Gah! Again, we were wrestling the kids just to stay in the frame so you take what you can get.

This was supposed to be all 4 girls standing against that wall.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.

This was supposed to be all 4 girls standing against that wall. Nope. Not gonna happen.

Yup.  The best one from this location.

Yup. The best one from this location.

Aurelia, age 9.

Aurelia, age 9.

It took an act of congress to even get this shot.  Most looked like the image that follows.

Lucia, age 6.  It took an act of congress to even get this shot. Most looked like the image that follows.

Yup.  She was NOT happy about this photo session.

Yup. She was NOT happy about this photo session.

Keira, age 4.

Keira, age 4 and being 4.  

Elisha, age 2.  2 year olds do NOT take direction whatsoever.  Eh, but they are usually always cute not matter what they are doing.

Elisha, age 2. 2 year olds do NOT take direction whatsoever. Eh, but they are usually always cute not matter what they are doing.

So, yeah this obviously was a test to my inner control freak.  I cannot even pretend we are a picture perfect family even if I tried.  Good thing we aren’t celebrities or royalty.  Yikes!  The expectation to have immaculate family portraits would be much greater.  We are just a typical family with a bunch of kids whose dynamic is chaotic and unpredictable.   Since we don’t use duct tape or shock collars on our children to coerce them to act like those families on magazine covers my expectation should match reality and the reality is what you saw above.

I supposed Lopez Family Pictures 2015 can’t get any worse, right?